Volkswagen e-up! review (2014-2019)

The e-up! was one of the first all-electric city cars to go on sale, but more modern rivals offer more range and better technology

£23,115
£19,615
Electric

Pros

  • Practical five-door body
  • Punchy electric motor
  • City-car dimensions

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Short driving range
  • Not the latest technology
Car type Official range Slow charge time Rapid charge time
Electric 83 miles (WLTP) 12 hours (2.3kW) 30 minutes (50kW, 0-80%)

The Volkswagen e-up! is an excellent electric city car. While it can’t offer the range of some of its more modern rivals, it’s cleverly packaged and good to drive, offering the usual high-quality interior we’ve come to expect from a car wearing the Volkswagen badge.

Its closest rival is the Smart ForFour EQ. However, the slightly larger Renault ZOE is cheaper to buy and can travel further on a full charge. Volkswagen's own e-Golf is worth considering, too, depending on how much range, space and kit you want.

The Volkswagen e-up! costs just over £23,000, although you’ll get a £3,500 discount on this thanks to the Government’s Plug-In Car Grant. Meanwhile, the Renault ZOE costs from £22,920 (dropping to £19,420 after the grant has been applied) although this doesn’t take into account the monthly cost of leasing the battery from the French manufacturer.

Although it’s designed for the city, the Volkswagen e-up!’s range is still frustratingly short. The maximum claimed range is 83 miles between charges, but in reality that number is closer to 70 miles, depending on driving style and weather conditions.

A full charge from a domestic plug will take nine hours, which means overnight charging is perfectly achievable even if you don’t have a wallbox installed at home. Better still, topping up the batteries to 80% can take as little as 30 minutes on a rapid charger, so boosting your range when you’re in a hurry isn’t out of the question either.

But with only an 18.7kWh lithium-ion battery to work with, you’ll just have to contend with the fact that you’ll be charging the e-up! more often than you would with a car offering more range.

There's just one trim to choose from, meaning every e-up! gets 15-inch alloy wheels, cool C-shaped LED daytime running lights, a height-adjustable driver's seat, reversing camera and body-coloured bumpers. A DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity are also standard, but there’s no option to add sat nav. Instead, you’ll have to spec the £162 phone cradle and use a third-party mapping app.

But due to the fact the standard up! was designed with an electric model in mind from the start, VW’s engineers have had to make few compromises when it comes to the driving experience.

The punchy electric motor gives it plenty of shove away from the lights, while the short wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) and sharp steering means it feels pleasingly agile around town. It’s more than capable of the odd motorway run too, albeit for a short amount of time.

If you’re after a small electric city car that's fun to drive and cheap to run, the Volkswagen e-up! is a brilliant choice. But if the latest technology is important to you – or you intend to cover longer distances between charging – there are cleverer, more modern electric cars on the market.

For a more detailed look at the Volkswagen e-up!, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.